When University of South Carolina business school dean Hildy Teegen asked to meet with him a few weeks ago, university president Harris Pastides said her leaving was not even on his top-10 list of possible topics.
After spearheading a huge fund-raising effort, Teegen was in the midst of building a new $106.5 million, ultra-environmentally friendly business school. She had built strong ties in the community through economic development work. And she has signed a new contract to stay as dean a little more than a year ago.
But Pastides said he was surprised when Teegen told him and provost Michael Amiridis that she wanted to step down after five years and return to teaching. She shared the news with school staff and faculty on Wednesday, the day before classes start.
Teegen was not available for comment but said in a statement released by the school: “The time is right for a transition in leadership and for my own academic and career development.”
Teegen will continue leading the Moore School of Business school until a successor is named. She plans to take a one-year sabbatical starting in fall 2013 and return to teach at the school and research economic development, USC said.
Pastides said he appreciated that Teegen would stay after her efforts to improvement the school.
“She was not a maintainer,” he said. “It was never about staying the course.”
The school said it will conduct a national search for a successor. Teegen is paid $277,250 a year, the 10th-highest non-athletics salary at USC, according to state data.
“We need to bring people like Hildy, who are visionaries and make it a better and stronger school,” former Gov. Jim Hodges, a Moore school trustee, said in an interview. “She has been a terrific leader. We’re going to have a world-class building to go along with our world-class faculty and students.”
The new business school building at Assembly and Greene streets is scheduled to open at the end of 2013, which would take place under a new dean.
Hodges said he was impressed how Teegen was able to help raise nearly $50 million to match donations of school benefactor, Lake City financier Darla Moore.
“That was a pretty heavy lift in this economy,” he said.
In addition to raising money, USC listed Teegen’s achievements as developing remote classes linked through video conferencing, creating a new accelerated master’s degree of business administration and requiring all business students take a new undergraduate course in international business.
“The school is in such good shape that I think this will have the most attractive (business school) position in the country,” Pastides said.
Before arriving in Columbia, Teegen was founding director of George Washington University’s Center for International Business Education and Research and taught international business.
Teegen “brought a fresh perspective, an energy that was contagious,” Moore said in a statement. “She made this place better. I applaud her leadership and will look forward to new contributions she will make to our state in the future.”